6/16/2013

UPDATE: Homemade Laundry Detergent

UPDATE: Homemade Laundry Detergent - Its a keeper!


We are happy to announce that we have finally used up our first batch of homemade laundry detergent! I am absolutely thrilled with the results. My laundry has been fresh and clean for a long 8 months. Yeah, did you hear that? I haven't bought laundry detergent in 8 months. That means that my initial $23 investment cost me under $3 per month! Not kidding. That is with baby laundry too! Without baby laundry I am sure it could have been stretched much further!

I whipped up a new batch this afternoon in about 20 minutes. I even grated the soap by hand and added an additional bar this time. I changed softening crystals to Purex's new baby formula that is free of dyes and is hypoallergenic. It has a lovely light floral scent. 

What are the perks of making your own detergent? Well, for starters you just can't beat that price! It works very well and I don't see us ever changing back to regular store bought detergent. I don't have to haul a huge jug of detergent from the shelf to the checkout to the car in the house to the laundry room a couple times a month anymore. Yay! Plus, almost all the packaging that the ingredients come in are biodegradable cardboard. The OxyClean and Purex containers are plastic but can be recycled. We actually keep the containers to use for other things around the house! 

So what are you waiting for? 

6/02/2013

Kudos: Ren Cleansing Conditioner

PRODUCT REVIEW:
Back in March, I came across a review of Renpure's cleansing conditioner, comparing it to the "A Seen On TV" Wen hair care products. It is about $10 cheaper and you can buy it at Walgreen's in the shampoo aisle. I have been wanting to try it out since it is supposed to be so much better for your hair being sulfate free and all. It is supposed to help with the frizzies and supposed to be great with curly hair too. Neither of which I really have. I have grown my hair out really long and found it to be a little more complicated keeping it healthy and manageable. So I started scoping it out at Walgreen's. I'd pick up the bottle and smell it every time I went in there trying to decide if I was brave enough to spend $10 on a product I wasn't sure I was going to like. Then one day, there it was, a BOGO price! I jumped at the opportunity! They have two scents for your sniffing pleasure: pomegranate and rosemary mint. I chose rosemary mint. It smelled fantastic and fresh. I imagined it to be tingly too.

I have always been a fickle shampoo user. I was a loyal Herbal Essences user since high school until they discontinued my favorite chamomile shampoo and changed EVERYTHING! I tried the new Herbal Essences products but it just didn't do much for my hair. It was always limp and lifeless. I tried the Dove hair care line with the same out come. My hair was nice and moisturized but it just kind of hung there. I tried a few different types of Sauve and wasn't all that impressed. Then I moved on to Aussie and loved it. I have been a loyal Aussie Aussome Volume user for almost two years. So despite my happiness with Aussie, I wanted to try some sulfate free shampoo. 

My first bottle was wonderful. My hair seemed stronger and less hair seemed to fall out. My hair is always soft and manageable, smelling minty but not overwhelmingly so. It is a little tingly too. Cleansing conditioner is really different than typical shampoo and conditioner. It doesn't suds. Once you get over the fact you do not need suds to get your hair clean you are ready to give this a try. Start by brushing out your hair before you get in the shower. I then thoroughly wet my hair. I use three squirts of cleansing conditioner to start the cleaning process. I put that in the front part of my hair starting with my bangs and start working it into my scalp. I get three more squirts and work it into the crown and back part of my hair. I have really long hair so I might need a little more than you. I get three more squirts and work it into the length of my hair. I then use a hair pick to comb out and tangles then clip it all up.  continue the rest of my shower and let the cleansing conditioner to do its thing. Right before I get out of the shower I rinse out my hair really well. 

I was extremely happy with Ren cleansing conditioner. One 16 oz bottle of rosemary mint cleansing conditioner lasts me about a month. With all that praise being said, I went out and bought more when I ran out. It wasn't the same. The original kind of spread out when I squirted it into my hand. The new bottle kind of poofed up in my hand like regular conditioner. When I went to rinse it out, it did not rinse out well. Later that day, my hair was oily and felt dirty. I was REALLY disappointed. I ended up finding the company's Facebook page. I saw that they were answering the comments from the fans of their page. I decided to write a little letter to explain the situation. They got back with me quickly and offered to replace my bad bottle! The new bottle arrived quickly and was EXACTLY like the first bottle. I was so happy. What great customer service. You just don't get service like that very often!  

If you were ever curious about trying Wen I'd give Ren a try! It is readily accessible. There is about 20 Walgreen's around here. It is cheaper than Wen and works like a dream. Unfortunately, I suppose I cannot be completely objective until I actually try Wen to compare to Ren but eh, I'm pretty happy with what I have!

Thanks for checking us out!
Love,
Brooke


***This is not a sponsored post. I was not paid to write about this product. I am just sharing my opinion about a product I think is worth sharing! Thanks!

5/05/2013

Cloth Diapers: This is how we do it!


I was at a baby shower a couple years ago and someone made a crack about using cloth diapers to the upcoming new mom. Another young mom piped up stating that she uses cloth diapers. She was met with weird looks and exclamations of odd amazement. I remembering wondering why anyone would want to do that. I mean the two obvious reasons are for the environment and to save money but is it really worth the extra work of washing diapers? Wouldn't cloth diapers leak everywhere? I also pictured the kind that my mom used on me. The white ones that need big safety pins with a duck on them. I just thought diapers were just one of those things you had to buy, use and throw away. It was part of the expense of having a baby. A part of me admired that young mom for doing something that was almost taboo. She must be some sort of ultra mom or hippie mom.

Then, I read this blog post over at Young House Love. It is all about using cloth diapers with their kiddo. It completely changed my outlook on cloth diapering. I began doing some poking around on the internet and realized there is a whole cloth diaper revolution happening that just hadn't touched around here yet. These diapers weren't the old fashioned kind I remembered. These cloth diapers were pretty, with bright colors and had adjustable snaps. They aren't as awful as I once thought!

I began to do some serious research on different cloth diaper brands and how to care for them. I found that there is a whole community of moms that are using cloth diapers with wonderful success. I also discovered there is more to cloth diapers than just some fabric strapped to a baby's bottom. You are not only doing a great thing keeping the disposables out of landfills and eventually saving some money it is healthier for your baby. Disposable diapers are full of chemicals that are right up next to your baby's skin. Some children are very sensitive to these chemicals and it can cause rashes. Cloth diapers are soft and organic. There are also special suds free detergents and special bottom creams to use all to protect the absorbency of the diapers. This means no typical laundry detergent and no A & D ointment or Desitin. All things I am used to using. I also found a lot of alternatives for the typical staples that I kept at the ready for baby bums. Like all natural shea butter creams but more on all that a little later. Cloth diaper babies supposedly have less rash problems than with disposable diapers. It is better for their skin.


When I found out I was pregnant with baby boy #2, I made my case to the hubby. Much to my surprise, he was in! He set off on a mission to find us quality used and new bumGenius cloth diapers for us online. He succeeded finding 17 diapers in good condition on ebay. He ended up paying around $10-12 for each diaper. That is a great improvement to the $20 per diaper from the manufacturer. The down side is that our diapers will not qualify for the warranty. We wanted to start out with a small investment on the chance that cloth diapering wasn't the thing for us.

We bought bumGenius brand cloth diapers. I really liked the styles they have and the reviews are very good. I figured this isn't the place to cut corners when it comes to containment, durability, ease of use. BumGenius just seemed like a good choice for me. They offer different styles, closures, and colors. You'll need to decide what kind you are looking for. I didn't want to deal with inserts or hook and loop closures that can loose their stick or get stuck to things I didn't want them to. They offered comfy elastic around the leg and some at the back to minimize the dreaded up the back blowout.The organic cotton is super soft and the microfiber shell doesn't soak through at all.













We chose the bumGenius all-in-ones that have the inserts sewn into the diaper and the snap closures. You can add additional inserts for more absorbency but so far we don't need it. They are designed to adjust size through the baby's whole diaper experience until potty training.



They start at size one though so we used the disposable kind until he fit into them. It took about a month and a half before they truly fit him well around the thigh area.

What a show off. Aren't cloth diapers a lot cuter than disposables?

Here is the basic life of a cloth diaper at our house:

A nice clean diaper gets snapped onto a cute little baby behind. A little more care goes into putting on a cloth diaper than a disposable diaper. Nothing to crazy and before you know it it is a habit. The cotton soaker lining has a little extra fabric length to it. I pull it forward to the front of the diaper to give a little more absorbency on the front. For a baby girl you will want to put this in the middle.

I slather on some cloth diaper approved bottom cream. We use Shea Moisture which is all natural and smells amazing. It can also be used for a lot of other things besides protecting little baby bums.

There are other brands out there. We chose this one because it was on sale at Walgreen's. Which means it is easy for us to get and I love sales. It is about $10 for one tube regular price but we got it for buy one get one at 50% off. It worked out perfectly because I can leave one in the diaper bag and one on the changing table. The skinny on cloth diapering bottom creams is this: NO FISH OIL. Fish oil is in a lot of typical bottom creams. If you have a bad rash situation you that you need to use a cream with zinc or fish oil in it you can go ahead and use disposables until the rash is gone or use a disposable liner in your cloth diapers. Actually, about a week into cloth diapering, Avery developed a little redness that the Shea Moisture didn't seem to kick. I tried coconut oil one night and it was gone within three or four diaper changes. So keep that in mind.

I snap him in then tuck in all the liner that might be sticking out of the thigh area. If it sticks out when the baby wets it will wick the urine right out onto their clothes. So tuck all the cotton soaker lining into the microfiber cover. I then smooth out the part around his waist and make sure it is tugged up high on his back. This actually help snug the diaper up around the thigh area as well.

After the little monkey has done his business we use a diaper sprayer to wash off a lot of the poo into the toilet. The diaper sprayer looks like a sink sprayer and attaches to the toilet.

BumGenuis sells a diaper sprayer but we found ours for about $20 on ebay.The hubby got it on our toilet in under 10 minutes. I fold the diaper in half, inside out and spray off one side, flip it and spray off the other. Let the water shake off a bit then fold it back right side out and put it in a large wet bag that hangs on the bathroom door. (Urine diapers go immediately to the wet bag.)

We bought our wet bags from Planet Wise. Planet Wise is a very nifty company. You should check them out. We have a large one in aqua swirl and two small ones (I don't remember that patterns name and couldn't find it on their website) for the diaper bag.









We can fit all 17 in the large bag with room to spare and about 3 diapers in one small bag. We wait until there are are about two or three diapers left to wash them. With 17 diapers, we wash diapers just about every other day. BumGenius also sell cloth diaper detergent but I did a little research and decided to make my own. It has some of the same ingredients that go into my homemade laundry detergent.

Cloth Diaper Detergent Recipe:
-3 large boxes of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda
-1 large box of 20 Mule Team Borax
-1 regular size tub of OxyClean
*Mix evenly

This makes a huge amount of detergent. I went ahead and bought a plastic tote to mix it and store it in. Then I filled the leftover OxyClean tub to use on a regular basis and refill. Use only 1 or 2 tablespoons per load so I measured that out in the OxyClean scoop and marked a line with a Sharpie. This is a nonsudsing detergent so it is safe to use in your HE washers. We have a plain ol' top loader though.

To wash the cloth diapers we set our washer on the medium load setting with cold water. The instructions we found didn't say to add detergent here but we do. Let that fill up and add the diapers straight out of the bag then throw in any wet bags that need freshening up. Listen for the rinse cycle and flip the water to medium/hot and add your detergent again. I then turn the knob back to the beginning of the wash cycle and let the entire wash/rinse cycles run through. Then one more rinse cycle for good measure.

I have read instances of people needing to strip their cloth diapers when they become less absorbent and start having an unusual amount of leakage. This can happen as a result of detergent build up or someone using the wrong kind of bottom cream. I haven't done this yet but will add that in if I ever do. If you want to check out some info on cloth diaper stripping I found this blog post at zany-zebra.com.

We did have an instance of skunky smelling urine diapers for a bit. We think it was a someone (me) not doing the longest wash with the detergent on the hottest setting. I was just letting the typical rinse cycle be the hottest detergent wash and it just wasn't long enough. After a few proper washes the smell disappated.


To dry, I prefer to hang the diapers out on the clothes line but it has been a rainy spring here. At first I tried hanging them around the house to dry but that wasn't working. So we toss them into the dryer with a damp towel if we have to. This summer it should be no problem to hang them out on the line every time. The line dry method helps prevent wear and tear with your diapers (just like with your clothes). You will have less possibilities of holes in your liners and heat ruining your elastic. The bonus with them hanging out in the sun is that the sun bleaches out the stains! So if we had to dry them in the dryer and then the sun comes out later that day, I will lay them on the deck table to sun bleach them. It only takes about an hour and works like magic. I do this with poo stained clothes now too! A nice sunny window spot would work as well.

Then we fold them, stack them and start all over!

We have been using cloth diapers for a little over two months. I am very happy with them. In all honesty, they aren't that much work. It is now just part of our routine around here. Daddy is a big help and had actually been the one doing most of the washing of the cloth diapers. Baby seems pretty happy in them. They seem very comfy and don't have the crunch diaper sound. They are a little more bulky but I think that has a lot to do with them being on the smallest sizing.

I haven't noticed any more or less leakage than a regular disposable diaper. We were using Pampers Swaddlers and had just as many (if not more) leaks and blow outs. We have never had one of those awful up the back blowouts yet but there have been times when I have taken off the cloth diaper and poo is all the way up to the back elastic. I would like to believe that is doing its job and preventing that from happening. Also, cloth diapers do not have those absorbent polymers that are in the disposable diapers. So your baby will feel the wetness more so than if they were wearing a disposable. That is why we are generous with the protective bottom cream and change him often. You would think that might cause more chance for diaper rash but we seriously haven't had any issues other than that one time the very first week.

My hopes are that with them being able to feel the wetness it will make potty training a little easier. We ran into that problem with our first child. He didn't mind the Pull Ups because they were still absorbent enough to not be uncomfortable. We had to ditch the Pull Ups and use cloth training pants with a plastic cover and it worked like a charm. That is an entire different post and we will address that when we get there in a couple years. As for now we will keep on cloth diapering! I would like to get a few more just to stretch the washing schedule to at least three days. As for overnighters away from home, we haven't had to deal with that yet. A lot of parents keep disposables on hand for visits overnight or to use at night if the soak through while sleeping. We did reserve about 4 dispoable size 1 diapers if needed. I think we have only used one of them and it was before we had this washing system down. We will keep you posted if we find we need to use disposables at night!

One more super cute baby picture! 

Let me know if you have any questions! I will do my best to answer them!
Thanks for checking us out!
Love, Brooke

***This post is entirely based on my opinions and own research not a sponsored post. Any products featured in the blog post are listed because I found them and tried them myself but if you are from BumGenius and want to send me more diapers to try I'll take em! :)

4/11/2013

Look what I made!

Back in February we welcomed a wonderful little man to our lives!
He is named after some very important men in our lives, just like Gavin was!


Modeling a hat made by Mama.

Don't you just love baby feet?! 

Big brother is doing so well to help. His first words when he met his little brother were "I love him already." I couldn't ask for anything more.
I just love this little face!

Being a mother is the greatest part of my life. These boys are everything to me. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful family.

p.s. - I know I didn't make him alone. Thank you Tanner for being a wonderful daddy and hubby! I love you!
Thanks,
Brooke

2/02/2013

DIY: 100th Day of School T Shirt

Teachers are finding new ways to have fun. I think this is a relatively new idea but I think it has become a pretty big deal for the kiddos. A celebration for the 100th day of school! How awesome is that? I know my little kindergartner was super excited to have something to look forward to after Christmas. It was a full day of 100th day activities. They had to bring in 100 of something. A collection of something small like pennies or some small trinkets. We collected 100 buttons out of my sewing stash. Then they had to bring in a 100 day snack like cereal or candy to share. Gavin took Cookie Crisp cereal. They put it all together in a big bowl, mixed it up and shared it with their kindergarten family. Yes, they call themselves a family which I find absolutely adorable. We have been lucky to have a kindergarten teacher that was born to do this job. She is absolutely amazing.

Little man was super psyched about this 100 day celebration we decided to make a t shirt to wear to school! I had been browsing Pinterest and had seen one similar. (Unfortunately, I didn't pin it to link you to it.) It was super easy! We did it together during an episode of Good Luck Charlie (which is the cutest show btw!)

Supplies:
Washable Markers - we used basic Crayola ones, nothing fancy
Plain White T Shirt
Optional but helpful:
Big Binder Clips 
Big book that fits inside the shirt


I slid the book inside the shirt and used the binder clips to pull the t shirt tight. It can be difficult to write on stretchy t shirt fabric. I did the tick marks because my little one doesn't quite have the motor skills yet to do this project. I started at the top and just laid the ruler as a basic guide to keep things straight. and tick marked away!

We used five colors: purple, blue, green, orange and red! 

At the bottom I wrote "Happy 100th Day!" He was so pumped!

So he could have a hand in it, I asked him to decorate the back and he wrote a big 100! Pretty good job! He said that everyone loved it at school. The best part was that we used washable markers and it all came out in the laundry. So next year, when he out grows this size of under shirt, we will just make a new one! 

Thanks for checking it out!
Love, 
Brooke

1/19/2013

Baby News and Big Blue Baby Blanket

Things are busy around here with preparations for the arrival of the new little one. Our due date is fast approaching with only a couple weeks left to go! My house is a complete mess with boxes of baby things brought up from the basement, baskets of tiny laundry, and lists upon lists that I keep making and forgetting. We have a crib up, bought a new changing pad and hospital bags packed but I feel really unorganized. Hopefully, our little nugget will stay put until we get things in order. I have one more week of work left then it is nest and rest time until he comes!

I have been diligently working away on a blanket for the new little one. It is similar to the big green one I made here as a baby gift for my cousin. It was pretty grass green with a brown border.


It is the same easy and quick offset shell with the crab stitch border pattern that I got from Goodknits! She made a beautiful red one. The one I made is a beautiful cheery turquoise.
 
 
The crab stitch might just be my new favorite way to border. I used to be all about the picot but I love how this gives this great rolled edge.
 
Snazzy! (If I do say so myself.)
 
 
In other news, I have a new camera! The hubs surprised me with a Canon Rebel that I have been coveting for about 4 years. The best part is that I have no idea how to use it . *Sigh* I mess with it but I really haven't a clue what I am doing. I took the above blanket pics with it (as you can tell by the blurry first photo.) 
 
Here are a few shots of me trying to figure it out:
 

I found this tutorial on pinterest from lilblueboo.com. She had better doggie luck than I did.


It turned out pretty!

Just about any pic with this cutie pie in it is good.

Love the bed head.

And this happy goofy smile. He is going to be a great big brother.
 
We are all getting anxious knowing things are going to change around here in just a quick hot minute. I can't wait to meet this new little person. My huge belly is like a big wrapped present with a do not open sign on it! I can hardly stand it!
 
Love,
B and little bit (that is currently causing a ruckus in my tummy.)
 
 


12/02/2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent!



I was browsing pinterest one day and came a across a recipe for laundry detergent that claimed it cost under $30 to make and would last a whole year. I was intrigued. I do a lot of laundry. At least two loads a day with a couple days off here and there. Seems that I am always lugging a big jug of Purex Naturals around. I talked it over with the hubs and we decided to go for it. If it is all that it claims then great! Here is the original post over at How does she? Which is a very cute blog if you are in the market for some entertaining reading and decorating ideas.


We bought all of our materials at Wal-mart! They were all grouped together in one section of the laundry aisle like that is exactly what they are there for!

Our materials ($23):
- One large canister of Purex Crystals (this adds scent and softens your clothes)
- 1 tub of Oxy Clean
- 1 large box of Borax
- 1 large box of Super Washing Soda
- 1 large box of Baking Soda (or you could use a bunch of the little boxes if you can't find this one)
- 2 bars of Fels-Naptha soap
- 1 good sized storage tub or bucket with a lid to mix and store your detergent



I had no idea Borax was so handy.

A few thoughts on laundry soap bars!
First, you have to grate your soap. This is the hardest part of this process but it really wasn't all that hard. I used the shredding attachment on my Kitchen Aid mixer that is typically used for grating cheese. You can hand grate your soap or I have heard there are some food processors that make quick work of two bars of laundry soap as well. There are different types of laundry soap bars available but our Wal-mart only carried Fels-Naptha. I know that our Cracker Barrel carries a castile soap (I think it is called Ken's) that is supposed to be a little more skin sensitive but my boys have sensitive skin and they have been fine with the Fels-Naptha. I have also read about people using Ivory soap bars. You would probably need to use a lot of those little bars. The recipe I looked off of uses Zote soap but I had no idea where to look for that. Plus, this had to be convenient for me to make and not me running all over town looking for soap for it to be worth it for me. I have also read some different thoughts on the amounts of laundry soap bars. I found that the two large bars are plenty for us but if you are doing heavier duty laundry it wouldn't hurt to throw in another bar.
 A nice big pile of shredded cheese, I mean soap!
 Get your tub or bucket and begin layering your ingredients a little at a time. That way when you mix it you have a head start on it already being integrated. Now get a hubby or someone with good strong arms to mix up your batch O' laundry detergent. (I am sure I could've handled it but I want him to feel included.)
 A nice close up of the goods.
 We tore off the label of the Purex Crystals bottle and filled it up. This is what I keep handy to use everyday. I have the tub sitting close by for refills when needed.
 The kicker: you only need 1 - 2 Tablespoons of this detergent! Seriously, that is all you need. It measures out in the cap of the bottle perfectly.
 This is my water with my new awesome soap all dissolved in it. Yep, we are old school here. We still have a top loader WITH an agitator. There will not be any suds. That is why it is safe to use with those fancy energy efficient front loaders!
THE VERDICT:
I have used this detergent exclusively for over two months. It has not disappointed! That is why I waited so long to blog about it. I wanted to make sure it stood up to many different types of laundry needs. It actually got out a large amount of blood on a towel! We came upon a roll over accident one evening. The driver was bleeding from a few gashes and I had given her a beach towel out of our car. I figured I was going to have to toss it. It all came out! I couldn't believe it.

The scent of the detergent is light and clean. Most of the time I don't even need dryer sheets. The hub's polyester work uniforms seem to generate a lot of static so I throw in my handy dandy reusable dryer sheet with those. (I soaked a hand towel in liquid fabric softener and laid it out to dry.Throw it in the dryer with wet clothes. Don't wash it. Use it until its softening power runs out. It lasted for TWO WHOLE MONTHS!) Supposedly, this homemade laundry detergent is safe enough for sensitive baby skin. I haven't tested that out but I will have the opportunity in a couple months! I just recently had to refill my Purex bottle so I can see where this will most likely last us a long time. I am not sure about the whole year but it will be interesting to see how far it does get me. I was buying these huge bottles of liquid detergent every month and a half. I figure if it gets me through 6 months (which I have no doubts that it won't) it is worth it.

A little hesitant to try it still? Get a few friends together to split the cost of the first batch and divide that baby up! Plus, you'll get help grating those laundry soap bars!

UPDATE: See how much we liked our first batch of laundry detergent and how long it lasted our family here!